Three years ago, the Kennewick boys soccer team suffered a cruel twist of fate when an on-field protest was upheld following a Lions district playoff win, and the resulting replay turned into a Kennewick playoff loss the very next day.
Lions coach Brian Gochoel is hoping the wheels of justice will turn in a similar way for him and his team after he filed an official protest with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association following Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Sunnyside in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
Citing a misapplication and misinterpretation of the rules by center referee Manny Martinez on a key second-half play, Gochoel hopes the WIAA will rule in Kennewick’s favor and give the Lions a chance he felt they were denied Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies celebrated their first-ever trip to the Class 3A semifinals, where they will play Mercer Island at 2 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
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“For these players to fulfill their dream is humbling yet invigorating,” Sunnyside coach David Guevara, who works in partnership with fellow Sunnyside graduate Sergio Licona to keep the team on track. “It’s unfortunate that referees can make a decision that hurts us, but they do the best they can, and we take our hats off to them.”
Lupe Granados, a freshman midfielder, scored the only goal of the game in the sixth minute on a free kick from about 30 yards. He struck the ball cleanly, just missing the Lions’ defensive wall, and the ball rolled just inside the left post, eluding Kennewick goalkeeper Henry Hernandez.
“They’re a tough team. Our coach told us one goal wasn’t going to be enough,” Granados said, noting that the teams combined for four goals in Sunnyside’s 3-2 shootout win in the District 5/8 regional championship a week ago.
The Lions, after losing to the Grizzlies for the second time this postseason, felt the frustration boil over.
“I feel like we just blew it. We could’ve gone all the way,” Kennewick defender Marcos Borja said. “It wasn’t the ref’s fault. We had a problem with our midfield in the first 20 minutes.”
Sunnyside got several chances in the first 20 minutes — four of their first-half shots came inside the first 15 minutes — but the Lions seemed to wake up after that, outshooting the Grizzlies 15-13 for the game.
The controversial play occurred in the 57th minute, when Kennewick — trailing 1-0 — pushed the ball forward into Sunnyside’s back third. The ball was played up to Lions’ forward Ramiro Chavez, who attempted to get past Sunnyside senior Jesus Marquez but got tangled up with the fallen defender.
Chavez lost his balance and fell to the ground inside the penalty box, and Marquez touched the ball with his hand while he was on the turf.
Instead of awarding a penalty kick to Kennewick, a standard ruling for a hand ball or a foul inside the 18-yard penalty area, Martinez instead awarded an indirect kick to Kennewick from roughly 14 yards.
Martinez explained after the game that he ruled Marquez was on the ground for more than three seconds before the handball occurred.
“I called (obstruction) first. Then there was the handball,” Martinez said. “(Gochoel) wanted a PK, but I’d already called indirect.”
If the WIAA upholds Gochoel’s protest, the game would presumably resume in the 57th minute with a penalty kick being awarded to Kennewick.
Sunnyside goalkeeper Manuel Calvillo made six saves, including a leaping tip-save on a strong shot by Borja in the first minute of the second-half.
Hernandez made three saves for the Lions.
Scoring—1, Sun, Lupe Granados, 6:00. Shots—K 15, Sun 13. Saves—K, Henry Hernandez 3. Sun, Manuel Calvillo 6.
TOPPENISH 3, OTHELLO 0: Isaac Lopez scored a goal and an assist, and Toppenish beat Othello in 2A state quarterfinal match, eliminating the Huskies.
Keeper Angel Rangel led Othello with five saves.
Scoring—1, T, Jose Chavez, 6:00. 2, T, Isaac Lopez PK, 48:00. 3, T, Servando Fuentes (Lopez), 68:00. Saves—T, Oliver Sanchez 2. Oth, Angel Rangel 5.